The Supreme Court on Monday ordered that criminal cases against MPs and MLAs cannot be withdrawn without the permission of the High Courts of the states concerned, reported Live Law.
A Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant gave the direction on a plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay on the pendency of trials against the elected members, seeking quick disposal of the cases.
The court also said that the judges hearing the criminal cases against MPs and MLAs in special courts should continue in their current posts. “Such a direction of this court barring the judicial officers will be subject to their retirement or death,” it added.
However, the bench allowed registrar generals of High Courts to move applications seeking relaxation of this condition against the transfer of judges, if there is a need for it.
The directions came on the suggestions of Amicus Curiae Vijay Hansaria. The amicus curiae also submitted a report highlighting instances in which state governments had issued orders to withdraw cases against elected representatives under section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, reported Bar and Bench.
The section allows a public prosecutor in charge of a case to move a request before the trial judge for permission to withdraw further prosecution. If the trial judge accepts the request, the accused is acquitted or discharged if charges are not framed.
The report said that the Karnataka government had withdrawn 61 cases of which many were against the MPs and MLAs. The Uttar Pradesh government was also seeking to withdraw 76 prosecutions against the accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots cases, including MLAs Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana, Kapil Dev and Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Prachi, reported Bar and Bench.
The Maharashtra government was also reportedly withdrawing political cases against activists registered after December 31, 2019, according to the report. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government, led by the Shiv Sena, assumed power in November 2019.
The amicus curiae said that despite directions, the number of pending cases against MLAs and MPs have increased, reported The Hindu.
“As per the status report filed by High Courts in December 2018, a total number of 4,122 cases were pending, which increased to 4,222 as per the reports filed in March 2020, and further increased to 4,859 as per reports filed in September 2020,” the amicus curiae report said.
During the hearing, the court expressed doubts on the government’s resolve to prosecute politicians. The court said that central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate have filed a sketchy affidavit about its cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs.
“We are committed,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta replied. “There is no reluctance on our part, maybe just a lack of coordination... The government is committed to ensuring speedy investigation and prosecution of elected representatives involved in criminal cases.”
In his petition filed in 2016, Upadhyay has sought that convicted persons be debarred uniformly from legislature, executive and judiciary.
It has also sought directions to provide adequate infrastructure to set up special courts to decide on criminal cases related to elected representatives, public servants and members of the judiciary within a year.